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Why Democrats are excited for Biden after a big week

A week ago, President Biden seemed down on his luck. 

He had just been diagnosed with COVID-19, after dodging it for more than two years.

He was being bashed by people in his own party for appearing flat-footed on abortion.

The all-important climate legislation he had been pushing seemed dead in the water.

And as if things couldn’t appear any worse, The New York Times had recently released a poll showing that most Democrats wanted someone else to run for their party’s nomination in 2024.

But a lot changed in a week.

Biden defeated his COVID-19 symptoms, and despite testing positive on Saturday after days of testing negative in what his doctor deemed a rebound case, it looks like the president has avoided any severe illness.

Gas prices are at the lowest they’ve been in weeks.

He’ll soon sign a bipartisan bill to boost the domestic chip industry, which has been a major priority.

And there’s an emerging deal in the Senate on his domestic climate and health agenda that caught almost all of Washington off guard this week. 

But it’s not all good for Biden. The Commerce Department on Thursday said the economy shrank for a second straight quarter, raising fears of a recession.

But overall, it was the best week in some time for the president. He even got some props from his old boss on his bout of good news. 

“This has been a big week for the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress,” former President Obama said on Thursday, highlighting the movement on legislation. “Progress doesn’t always happen all at once, but it does happen – and this is what it looks like.” 

Even Democrats who had questioned Biden’s leadership days earlier were feeling more optimistic. 

“He had a really good f—ing week,” said one Democratic strategist, who acknowledged doubting the White House’s strategy– or lack thereof – earlier this month. “And it’s a good reminder that things can change so quickly in politics. Remember when everyone was writing those OMG Biden has COVID stories? That was a week ago.”  

The legislative victories, while not set in stone just yet, are potentially game-changing for Biden and the Democrats, after more than a year of wrangling in Congress — much of it messy and public — over Biden’s economic agenda. 

Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, said that if both the semiconductor bill and the reconciliation package succeed, “the first two years of the Biden administration are probably the biggest of any Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson.”

“That shows competence,” he said.

Progressives hungry for climate action and frustrated by months of inaction have a reason to look up because of the deal announced this past week. 

“If this bill passes, not only is it historic, it’s going to help drive up youth voter turnout for the election,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president and executive director of the youth voting group NexGen America, noting that policy to fight climate change was a major motivator for young voters in 2020 who turned out to support Biden.

However, it’s unclear whether that enthusiasm will translate into more support for Biden among young voters, who polls have shown souring on Biden. 

“At the end of the day, what I think people have to remember is, Biden was never the youth candidate,” said Tzintzún Ramirez. “If [Democrats are] able to get this done, it shows young people their vote really does help deliver the policy agenda that they want.”

Biden is contending with record high inflation and remains underwater in the polls, with his national approval average around 38 percent. 

But Democratic strategist Rodell Mollineau said Biden has been “unfairly plagued” by what he hasn’t accomplished versus what he has and the legislative deals are sure to re-energize him, particularly when it comes to the base. 

Mollineau acknowledged that it will continue to be a roller coaster ride for Biden. 

“He’s gonna have good weeks and bad weeks between now and the midterms and between now and his reelection,” he said. 

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) said in a local radio interview on Thursday that he would not support Biden running again in 2024, instead calling for a “generational change” at the top of the ticket 

“I think the country would be well-served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats who step up,” he said on Chad Hartman’s radio show. 

Those comments came after news of the deal on a sweeping reconciliation package that had most corners of the Democratic Party swimming with excitement. 

“The president intends to run in 2024. We are ways away from 2024,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday when asked about Phillips’s remarks. “We are going to continue to focus on doing the business of the American people, by delivering for families, by lowering costs for families.”

A CNN poll this week found that 75 percent of Democrats want someone other than Biden to run in 2024, following up on a similar poll earlier in the month from The New York Times and Siena College.

That leaves some skeptical Biden can turn it around.

“At the end of the day, people that don’t like Biden are still not going to like Biden if they’re concerned about everything from his age to his political acumen, I don’t think this changes the needle that much,” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of the public policy program at Hunter College.

But Mollineau said he thinks that oftentimes, journalists and talking heads “look at the last piece of data and make long term assumptions” about Biden’s viability. 

He added that Biden is skilled at playing the long game. 

“How many times was he written off as dead during the 2020 primary?” he said. “So many folks have been ready and willing to write him off but he’s playing a much larger game than one news cycle.” 

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